Little Bits of History

August 4

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 4, 2017

1790: The United States Revenue Cutter Service is established. Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, suggested a service be created as an armed customs enforcement agency. Called the Revenue-Marine until 1894 when the name changed to the Revenue Cutter Service, it was under the auspices of the Department of the Treasury until 1915. It then merged with the United States Life-Saving Service and the combined entity was called the United States Coast Guard. The service began when the new country was having trouble financing itself. Most income was obtained by tariff and smuggling became a way to avoid paying those taxes. The new law gave the US authority to police her shores and collect unpaid tariffs.

The original order was to build ten vessels. A “System of Cutters” gave the ships different areas to patrol. Two were assigned to the coasts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, one for Long Island Sound, one each for New York, the Bay of Delaware, North Carolina, and Georgia and the last two were for the Chesapeake. In the spring of the following year, President George Washington commissioned the masters in charge of these ships and it was under his suggestion that each master would supervise the construction of his own ship. They had to keep their budgets under the funds appropriated by Hamilton and three of the cutters ran over their $1,000 budget. The most expensive ship, the Massachusetts cost $2,050 while the Scammel cost $1,255, and the General Green cost over $1,500.

Each ship was staffed by the master who received $30 per month and three mates who were paid $20, $16, and $14 respectively. Also aboard each cutter were four mariners who each made $8 and two boys paid $4 per month. The $120 per month per ship wages were also part of the original legislation creating the Service. Between 1790 and 1798 the Revenue-Marine was the only armed maritime service of the US because the Navy was disbanded after the end of the Revolutionary War. Masters received orders from and answered to the Collector of Customs of the port where his ship was assigned. Supplies and repairs, along with crew pay and mission specific orders came directly from the port’s Customs House.

With the Slave Trade Act of 1794, the ships also started intercepting slave ships illegally importing slaves to the US. They continued this practice until well after the Civil War except for a few years when it was handled by a different division of the Federal Government. The ships were given a set of standing orders to follow when not on a specific mission and their captains were given great latitude in seizing ships that could be in violation of Revenue laws. Even when the US Navy was reestablished, the Cutters would help out in time of war, although they were placed under the command of the Navy for some engagements. Their mission changed with the times and by 1915, under President Woodrow Wilson, their name was changed to what it remains to this day, the US Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard has long been known as the armed service that gets more done for less. – Howard Coble

Our ports are owned by local governments who are responsible for the ports. It is the Coast Guard and Customs that provide security. The federal government will never outsource our security. – Kit Bond

First at the outset, let me commend the great men and women of the United States Coast Guard for what they do. – Vito Fossella

The favorite thing I like to do is nothing. I’m such an expert at doing nothing. I have a boat. I make training films for the Coast Guard. I listen to a great deal of opera. – Charles Nelson Reilly




Mount Asama

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 4, 2015
Mount Asama

Mount Asama

August 4, 1783: Mount Asama in Japan erupts. The complex volcano is located on the island of Honshū, the main island of Japan. It is the most active volcano on the island. It stands, today, at 8,425 feet above sea level. The mountain is made up of volcanic rocks dating from the Late Pleistocene to the Halocene eras. The volcano was first successfully examined via internal imaging in 2007 when the Tokyo University and Nagoya University completed their study. They were able to create images of the cavities through which lava was passing by using muons to create a map of the deep interior of the mountain. The area is closely monitored by both seismographs and video cameras placed at strategic locations. The volcano observation station on the eastern slope is run by the Tokyo University. The last eruption was in early February 2009 and there have been recorded eruptions since 685.

The eruption on this date was the culmination of a three month plinian eruption which had been throwing pumice into the air with some pyroclastic and lava flows since May 9, 1783. On this final day of chaos, Asama began throwing matter high into the air and it lasted for 15 hours. There was much ash and lava which were noted at the vent. The eruption plume ejected pumice into the air. The eruption was responsible for 1,400 deaths. But the social conditions of the time made matters much worse. This particular eruption is known as the Tenmei eruption, the name of the Japanese era lasting from April 1781 to January 1789 while emperor Kōkaku-tennō ruled. Tenmei means “dawn” and began with the new emperor’s rise to power.

Almost immediately, the new ruler was faced with problems. The Great Tenmei Famine began in 1782. The eleven year old emperor along with the established shoguns, did not put into place policies to help feed their people. Rather, they attempted to commercialize agriculture to increase tax collections (which were paid in rice). This increased the production of rice which was susceptible to cold weather. This led to food stores being depleted after years of famine and the price of rice skyrocketing. The famine became a national disaster and in one province, over 100,000 people died. Because of the famine and disease (exacerbated by malnutrition), nearly a million people died in only six years.

The disaster of this day helped to contribute to the famine. Since the volcano deposited ash and pyroclastic materials (pumice rocks) over a large area, the land became useless for farming. Most of the land in two provinces remained entirely fallow or under-producing for the next four to five years. With this unproductive land there was not enough food locally. Because of the ongoing famine, there were no reserves to be shipped in. The volcano’s aftermath is credited with another 20,000 deaths due to starvation. Isaac Titsingh used Japanese sources and wrote a book about this event which was one of the first times European readers were able to read about an Asian disaster. It was published in Paris in 1820 and in London in 1822.

The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people. – Charles Trevelyan

Man can and must prevent the tragedy of famine in the future instead of merely trying with pious regret to salvage the human wreckage of the famine, as he has so often done in the past. – Norman Borlaug

They that die by famine die by inches. – Matthew Henry

Years of drought and famine come and years of flood and famine come, and the climate is not changed with dance, libation or prayer. – John Wesley Powell

Also on this day: Salude – In 1693, champagne was invented.
Shortcut – In 1902, a new tunnel under the River Thames opened in London.
Missing – In 2002, two girls go missing in Soham, Cambridgeshire, England.
Saturday Night – In 1821, the Saturday Evening Post was first published.
MTS Oceanos – In 1991, the Oceanos sunk.

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MTS Oceanos

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 4, 2014
MTS Oceanos sinking

MTS Oceanos sinking

August 4, 1991: MTS Oceanos sinks. The French-built Greek-owned cruise ship had been launched in 1952 and completed the next year. She was the last of four ships built for Messageries Maritimes and was christened Jean Laborde. The ship was renamed several times before coming into the possession of the Epirotiki Lines and registered at Piraeus, Greece in 1976. Her cruises from South Africa were very successful in 1988 and she was given an eight-month charter from TFC Tours of Johannesburg. She was old and neglected and there were many issues with the ship overall including loose hull plates and check valves not working. There was a known 4 inch hole in the “watertight” bulkhead between the generator and sewage tank.

On August 3, 1991, the Oceanos set out from East London, South Africa and headed to Durban, a port city northeast of the point of origin. The day of departure was stormy with 40-knot winds (about 46 mph) and 30 foot swells. Departure events usually included a “sail-away” party on deck but the seas were too rough. British entertainers Moss and Tracy Hills instead entertained the guests inside the Four Seasons lounge, but attendance was sparse since most travelers stayed in their cabins. The storm grew worse and as the first sitting for dinner guests arrived, the waiters could barely bring their food. The ship began tossing so hard the guests couldn’t keep their dinners on the table and the potted plants were crashing around them.

Around 9:30 PM while off the Wild Coast of the Transkei, there was a muffled explosion and the ship lost power. A leak in the engine room caused the chief engineer to contact Captain Yiannis Avranas to let him know that the generator room was flooding and the generators themselves had to be shut down. The ship was adrift. Water steadily rose. Because of the hole in the bulkhead, water entered the sewage waste disposal tank and from there entered the plumbing of the ship and spilled out of showers, toilets, and waste disposal units. The crew fled in panic without closing portholes on the lower deck. They also failed to notify the guests of the state of the ship.

By the time passengers realized what was happening, the Captain and crew were packed and ready to leave. Moss Hills went to the bridge to find out what was wrong and found it abandoned. He radioed for help and nearby vessels responded to his SOS. The South African Navy and the South African Air Force launched several helicopters to rescue stranded passengers. The only heroic crew member was Lorraine Betts, the cruise director, who did get some of the passengers into lifeboats before the ship listed too far and they were no longer able to launch. All 571 people aboard were saved. The captain justified his behavior but was unsuccessful in convincing a board of inquiry of his innocence.

When I order abandon the ship, it doesn’t matter what time I leave. Abandon is for everybody. If some people like to stay, they can stay. – Yiannis Avranas

Negligence is the rust of the soul, that corrodes through all her best resolves. – Owen Feltham

Success produces confidence; confidence relaxes industry, and negligence ruins the reputation which accuracy had raised. – Ben Jonson

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence. – Napoleon Bonaparte

Also on this day: Salude – In 1693, champagne is invented.
Shortcut – In 1902, a new tunnel under the River Thames opened in London.
Missing – In 2002, two girls go missing in Soham, Cambridgeshire, England.
Saturday Night – In 1821, the Saturday Evening Post was first published.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 4, 2013
Entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel

Entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel

August  4, 1902: A new tunnel opens for foot traffic underneath the River Thames. The tunnel linked two London Boroughs – Greenwich and Tower Hamlets. Designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and built by John Cochrane and Co., the tunnel replaced unreliable ferry service in place since 1676. Many workers lived on the south side of the Thames and needed to get to work on the docks and in the shipyards located on the Isle of Dogs. Will Crooks, a working-class politician, pushed for the tunnel to give workers a better way to get to their jobs.

The Greenwich foot tunnel is 1,217 feet long and runs about 50 feet under the River Thames. The tunnel itself is about 9 feet in diameter and lined with 200,000 glazed white tiles. It cost £217,000 to build between June 1899 and 1902. That would be nearly $10.5 million today. Each end had a glazed dome over the entrances that are still lit up at night. There are spiral steps leading from street level to the tunnel. In 1904, elevators were added and were upgraded in 1992. The tunnel is always open, but the elevators only run during certain hours.

The northern end was damaged during World War II. It was repaired but significantly lessened the diameter at the repair site. Today, the south side entrance is near to the preserved tea clipper Cutty Sark, while the north side entrance is close to the Island Gardens. From the Isle of Dogs, one gets a spectacular view of the former Greenwich Hospital, the Queen’s House, and the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

Because it is isolated and underground, it is not particularly safe to walk through the tunnel alone at night. Cell phones don’t work because of signal interference. Trying to leisurely walk through the tunnel heading South at 8 AM or North at 6 PM would put you in the rush hour of workers heading in the opposite direction. Although it is no longer dock workers, you would still be walking against the general flow of traffic. Bicyclists use the tunnel as a shortcut but must walk their bikes through the tunnel itself.

“If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” – Raymond Inmon

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” – Steven Wright

“No city should be too large for a man to walk out of in a morning.” – Cyril Connolly

“He who limps is still walking.” – Stanislaw J. Lec

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Sir Alexander Richardson Binnie was born in 1839. He was knighted by Queen Victoria for services in engineering. He was responsible for several engineering projects around the River Thames in London. His first project in which he was chief engineer was the Blackwall Tunnel in 1897. He was also chief engineer for Vauxhall Bridge in 1906. He worked with Sir Benjamin Baker to design major portions of London’s drainage system including the sewage treatment works at Crossness and another at Barking. He worked outside London as well and developed water works systems for Bradford, West Yorkshire. Binnie also founded a firm under his name and his son, William, took over when Binnie senior retired. The firm later merged a couple times and today is part of the international Black & Veatch consultancy.

Also on this day: Salude – In 1693, champagne is invented.
Missing – In 2002, two girls go missing in Soham, Cambridgeshire, England.
Saturday Night – In 1821, the Saturday Evening Post was first published.

Saturday Night

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 4, 2012

Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell

August 4, 1821: Atkinson & Alexander first publish the Saturday Evening Post. August 4 was, in fact, a Saturday in 1821. The now bimonthly magazine got its start from Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette which was first published in 1728. On this day, the name changed and the printed material was a four-page newspaper printed weekly. The original Post had no illustrations and was politically controversial in nature. In 1839, editor George Rex Graham began to publish on topics of morality as well as a variety of commercial concerns.

Cyrus H. K. Curtis purchased what had become a magazine rather than a newspaper in 1897. A new era began with his leadership. Curtis also published The Ladies Home Journal and had a distinguished career in publishing. Perhaps his best move was to bring in George Horace Lorimer as editor from 1899 to 1936. In 1899, the Saturday Evening Post was selling a respectable 2,000 copies per year. The Post was the first magazine ever to reach 1,000,000 copies sold and by the end of Lorimer’s tenure that number had hit 3,000,000.

Lorimer was responsible for the change in cover design. Prior to his innovation, the cover was simply page one of the publication. He brought art work and original illustrations to the cover, making it very distinctive indeed. The most famous of the cover illustrators was Norman Rockwell. His everyday life scenarios connected with the readers. He worked with the Post for over four decades and created an iconic body of work.

By the 1950s, television became America’s choice of entertainment. The magazine’s short stories, editorials, and commentaries couldn’t match the excitement portrayed on the tube. The Post ceased publication in 1969. However, it was purchased and began publishing again in 1971 with an emphasis on health and medical breakthroughs. The bimonthly magazine has a circulation of about 353,000 today.

There are two kinds of men who don’t amount to much: those who can’t do what they are told and those who can do nothing else. – Cyrus H. K. Curtis

If you believe in the Lord, He will do half the work – but the last half. He helps those who help themselves. – Cyrus H. K. Curtis

It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy. – George Horace Lorimer

You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction. – George Horace Lorimer

Also on this day:

Salude – In 1693, champagne is invented.
Shortcut – In 1902, a new tunnel under the River Thames opened in London.
Missing – In 2002, two girls go missing in Soham, Cambridgeshire, England.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 5, 2011

Chapman and Wells

August 4, 2002: Two girls go missing from Soham, Cambridgeshire, England. Holly Marie Wells and Jessica Aimee Chapman were both ten years old. The girls had been at a BBQ hosted by the Wells family. Around 6:15 PM they left to go and buy some sweets. On their way back home, they passed the home of Ian Kevin Huntley, the local school caretaker. He called to them. He invited them in and claimed that his girlfriend, Maxine Carr, was also inside. She was not there, but visiting family in Lincolnshire. Shortly after the girls entered his house, he killed them.

There is no clear reason for this murder. It seems that just minutes before the girls passed the rented house occupied by Huntley, he had slammed down the phone on Carr, fighting with her. He suspected she was cheating on him. It is believed that he saw the girls and killed them in a fit of jealous rage. Huntley’s mother agreed with police in this supposition. There was no evidence ever found to indicate premeditation.

When the girls did not return home, a missing persons report was filed. While people were searching for the youngsters, Huntley appeared on a news program talking about how shocking their disappearance was. On August 17, the girls bodies were found near the perimeter fence of the RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. Twelve hours after this discovery, their clothing was located near the Soham Village College. The girls bodies were severely decomposed and they had been lit on fire to try to destroy forensic evidence.

Huntley was arrested. He was detained and underwent a psychological examination. He was deemed fit to stand trial. This ruling was made on October 8, 2002. While held at Woodhill prison, Huntley attempted to commit suicide by taking 29 antidepressants. He was hospitalized for 48 hours and then returned to his cell. During his trial, he admitted the girls both died at his house, but claimed these were accidental deaths. The jury rejected that story and found him guilty of murder. After being found guilty, it was learned that Huntley had a history of investigations regarding child sexual offenses and burglary. He was sentenced to life in prison.

“Although Mr. Huntley made clear attempts to appear insane, I have no doubt that the man currently, and at the time of the murders, was both physically and mentally sound and therefore, if he is found guilty, carried out the murders totally aware of his actions.” – Dr. Christopher Clark

“The order I make offers little or no hope of the defendant’s eventual release.” – Mr. Justice Moses, at the sentencing

“Each murder is one too many.” – Jurgen Habermas

“Every murder turns on a bright hot light, and a lot of people… have to walk out of the shadows.” – Albert Maltz

Also on this day:
Salude – In 1693, champagne is invented.
Shortcut – In 1902, a new tunnel under the River Thames opened in London.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 4, 2010

Enjoy some bubbly

August 4, 1693: Dom Perignon invents champagne sparkling wines. There were some sparkling wines available prior to this date, but they were not the same as what we know as “champagne” today.

Wines from the Champagne region of France were already being produced and were highly regarded. They were red wines and some of them “sparkled” after traveling across land in casks because of a second fermentation brought on by heat.

Pierre Perignon, a monk from the Abbey of Hautvillers, used this second fermentation, along with a special procedure for pressing the grapes that produced a white wine rather than a red. Frère Jean Oudart, another monk in a nearby monastery was also working with this process. Since they were only a few miles apart, it is assumed that they collaborated or at least shared helpful tips.

Perignon also improved the bottling procedure. Special stronger bottles were needed to contain the building pressure of the fermentation process along with special corks to hold the precious liquid. It took more than 150 years before any technical progress was added to the process – measuring the sweetness of the grapes to know how much additional sugar to add. Champagnes were not named for Dom Perignon until 1936.

“I see stars.” – Dom Perignon, upon his first drink of the sparkling beverage.

“I don’t have a sense of entitlement or that I deserve this. You’d be surprised at the lack of competition between nominees – I think a lot of it’s imposed from the outside. Can I have my champagne now?” – Cate Blanchett

“And now, I am dying beyond my means.” – Oscar Wilde sipping champagne on his deathbed

“I’ll stick with gin.  Champagne is just ginger ale that knows somebody.” – M*A*S*H, Hawkeye

Also on this day, in 1902 the Greenwich foot tunnel opens.